Duke two-hitter sparks Bulldogs to second-round win over Cascade

Friday, May 3, 2019
Senior Bulldog ace Graham Duke turned in a masterful performance in Thursday night’s District 8-A Tournament second-round, 2-0 shutout win over Cascade.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

The fourth-ranked Cornersville Bulldogs (22-4-1) lived up to the billing in a 2-0 win over Cascade in District 8-A Tournament second-round action Thursday night at Cornersville.

The top-seeded Bulldogs rode a two-hit gem on the mound by senior ace righty Graham Duke, who gave up two hits, struck out 12, and walked two Cascade batters in the shutout win by the hosts.

“I knew coming in I had to locate because they could hit and I had my off speed working,” Duke said. “It was very important to win this first game, it puts us in a good spot, especially if we get tomorrow night’s game, we’ll be set.”

Duke threw 99 pitches and went 13-for-22 in first-pitch strikes before his classmate Raymond Cooksey came on to record the final two outs in the top of the seventh to earn the save.

Tyler Wolaver went 2-for-3 at the plate for Cornersville and both safeties were crucial to the Bulldogs’ victory.

“This was an important win because we worked hard all this season to come to this point, so it’s just good to get the ‘W’ in the first game and just move on,” Wolaver said. “I knew if I just put the bat on the ball I could drive them in, it’s not about hitting home runs, it’s about scoring runs.”

Tyler Wolaver scored one run on a Cascade groundball error and then knocked in the second Cornersville run with an RBI infield single.

Wolaver produced the first run of the game in the top of the first inning when he drilled a one-out single to center field and went to second on a Caleb Crowell base hit before scoring on an error by the Champions’ third baseman.

With tensions running high in the one-run game in the bottom of the fifth inning, Tilden Jackson coaxed his second base on balls in the contest and went to second on a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt by Connor McVey.

Cameron Whitaker followed with a line drive shot to third that went off the fielder’s glove and Jackson scooted to the third base bag before scoring on a Wolaver infield single deep in the 6-5 hole.

Left fielder Eli Woodard (2) flies in to make a nice running catch in the first inning.

Duke set down the Champions 1-2-3 in the first, second, fourth, and fifth innings and escaped a two-on, two-out jam in the top of the third frame on an inning ending strikeout.

In the top of the sixth inning with the Bulldogs in front 2-0, Duke ran in to some trouble when he walked Ryan Inman to lead off stanza.

After a nice catch by Eli Woodard on a fly ball down the line in foul territory for the first out, a wild pitch sent Inman to second base.

Coby Melson singled to left field to put Cascade baserunners on the corners before the Bulldogs came up with the defensive play of the game when Cornersville backstop Crowell gunned down Melson trying to steal second base.

“As a team we are one of the best defensive teams in the state,” Wolaver said. “If they can pitch it, we will catch it.”

A fired up Duke whiffed the next Champion batter to end the inning.

The Cornersville sixth ended on a caught stealing at second base and Duke struck out the first batter he faced in the top of the seventh before Bulldog coach Ben Putnam called Cooksey in from the bullpen.

“We have the two best pitchers in the district, so we don’t even worry about that,” Wolaver said.

Raymond Cooksey came on with one down in the bottom of the seventh inning and retired the last two Cascade batters to earn the save.

Cooksey got the second out when he induced a ground ball to Duke, who took over at second base and the game ended on a Cooksey strikeout completed by a throw to first by Crowell.

The Bulldogs take on second-seeded Eagleville tonight at 7:30 p.m. in a winner’s bracket contest.

The Eagles (18-12), who were swept by the Bulldogs in the regular season, easily took down Moore County 6-0 in Thursday night’s nightcap.

“It’s going to be a tough game, but we are ready, we have worked hard,” Wolaver said. “Raymond will be throwing on the mound and we will be there to back him up.”

Cascade 000 000 0-0 2 1

Cornersville 100 010 X-2 6 0

Cascade: Coby Melson 1-for-3, Ryan Inman 1-for-1.

BB: Cade Whitson, Inman.

CS: Melson.

Totals

Team LOB: 3

Fielding

E: Keigan Walker.

DP: Whitson 2, Nelson 2, Connor Marlin 2.

LP: Austin Warren (6IP, 6H, 2R, 1ER, 4K, 3BB).

Cornersville: Tyler Wolaver 2-for-3, Graham Duke 2-for-2, Cameron Whitaker 1-for-3, Caleb Crowell 1-for-3.

BB: Tilden Jackson 2, Duke.

RS: Wolaver, Jackson.

RBI: Wolaver.

SAC: Conner McVey.

FC: Raymond Cooksey.

GIDP: Cooksey, McVey.

CS: Christian Wilson.

Totals

Team LOB: 4

WP: Graham Duke (6.1IP, 2H, 0R, 0ER, 12K, 2BB).

Save: Raymond Cooksey (.2IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 1K, 0BB).